RCN: Sorry to See You Go...
February 21, 2008
I just found out that the great alternative bike magazine "Recumbent Cyclist News" is out of business. Sad news.
Publisher Bob Bryant has ridden his magazine through some amazing times. It's all over now. 102 issues, 16 years.
The Internet strikes back.
That's what it boiled down to.
RCN lived thru the rise and fall of indy print media.
In the early 90's, the advent of do-it-yourself, independent culture and media included an explosion in the bike scene. Bikes and indy media have always moved in similar circles. Then RCN came on the scene and the recumbent side of things just exploded. In the mid-90's there were a good six solid indy bike mags and zeens. RCN boomed to maybe a 10,000 circ (based on my recollection) at, say, 1995.
That is, RCN truly helped create the now semi-mainstream 'bent scene.
I caught the 'bent ride in about '91. I first discovered the DEEP INSIDE of the world of HPVs thanks to RCN. I had dipped my toe in the water with Richard Ballantine's amazing bike book (2nd ed., available here at OYB!) then I went nuts when I found RCN. It was the first---and has been the only thing---of its kind in the USA. What was so neat about the 'bent scene was how open and sharing it was---and still is---from the builders on down to the tinkerers and lateraling on over to the racers.
Another special aspect that RCN shared with the best of the indy press was its candor and integrity. Rare, priceless virtues that were and are only found in a few stand-out little guys.
Enter the Net.
Bikes and technology also go hand in hand. Free and easy info about all sorts of recumbents and indy bikes just exploded on the Web in the late 90's.
The paper version of RCN fell thru the floor. Bob used a homepage to guide people to his print info. He started a super 'bent blog [this link]. Nothing helped.
Several major 'bent companies went belly-up or got shook up starting in the late 90's (including BikeE and Vision).
The HPVA---the US national 'bent org---also imploded during these years. The international arm, the IHPVA still seems to be standing.
Actually, I have no idea why this all had to happen, really.
But it seems like the Net played a role. What tech giveth it can taketh away.
There still seem to be 4 good print indy/HPV bike mags---VeloVision, Recumbent and Tandem Rider, Bicycle Quarterly, and Dirt Rag. But only 2 of them cover 'bents and VV is from the UK and hard to find here and RTR is thin, a free shop tab. I offer samples of VV and BQ for sale here.
And there are perhaps 3 major indy/HPV bike online resources---BentRiderOnline.com, Recumbents.com, and BikeForums.com. These and GOOGLE plus a jillion other handy sites (like maybe OYB!) cover all the bases you could imagine.
...Except there is no longer as serious of a recumbent presence in print in the USA.
That seems weird.
The Net is good. But paper is real. You can mull it over, carry it around. To me, both modes work together.
And I still find that about half of the indy culture population isn't wired, or not very much.
I was worked with Bob on quite a few little 'bentish ventures over the years, mostly in terms of advertising and brainstorming. I wish him the best!
- , posted on Apr 08, 2008|
|I wonder Jeff, how do you see the 'net impacting the Indy scene in general? 15-20 years ago almost everywhere you went someone (yep, me too) was typing, cutting and pasting (or if you were really set & styling, composing type for the press!) their own indy 'zine. Nowadays everyone and their alter-ego has a blog and website and . . . I wonder. Seems the Xerocracy has become the Internet-ocracy.|
I agree, for many things I prefer paper. I have tried multiple times at mags on the web, or eBooks but I can't cotton to it. Ink and paper has it's lure to me (OK, toner and paper, in some instances).
- Williamston, MI, posted on Apr 09, 2008|
|Hi... I see the Net as a great thing. But! It still leaves out about half the market and half the audience, as I see it. That's a huge amount. But the half that it leaves out has been trained away from reading. In fact, the half it leaves in has also been trained away from reading *as we knew it 15 years ago*. |
So, in short, the Net is a cheap, fast way to publish for Indy voices. And there is no easy-access market for affordable paper publishing. This pushes the Indy spirit to the Net. But in neither case is reading the same.
It's all very weird! Of course there are some exceptions. But it seems to be rocky times for all. The free content, no ads bloggers are going great guns---but they're still 90% "what my cat did today." If you want the real scoop on something you have to dig then you find only, say, 3 top blog/site resources per topic. That's still really something, considering that every indy concept is represented in that way.
I don't know how it's going for the big paper players. Is "Outside" magazine being hurt by the Net? I think they give away most of their content on their site. Same with "Outdoor Life" and "Field & Stream." Their sites are full-featured and I suppose their advertisers are happy. They probably don't make much profit on per-copy sales anyway.
But for little paper guys? My hero "Silent Sports" seems to be doing good. "Messing About in Boats" is holding on---though he just made a big change to adapt to greatly increasing postage rates. I hope "Momentum" in Canada is thriving. "VeloVision" in the UK seems to be doing well.
As for me, I really wish I could do both my site and a paper version. I think that in my case that 3/4's of my audience isn't on-line and prefers paper. BUT! My per-copy sales of my last paper issue were half the percent it was 5 years before. That's probably mostly my fault due to lack of continuity. I got the new issue into some great new venues. But there may well also be a bad market now for newstand mags. Anyway, my printing was so sporadic that I'd have to build it up again from scratch. My readers are scattered in the hinterlands. How would they find out about it if it was steadily available again? My guru, the editor of MAIB, said I had a good concept in a general indy "active" culture mag but that my audience was not easily locatable, was too scattered.
Paper is so nice, enduring and portable!
I'm still in the middle of my test as to whether paper minor-interest books are viable. They SEEM to be. More so than mags.